brainscanColumbia TriStar
1994
R

“My name’s Michael Brower, I’m sixteen and I’m scared to death. I don’t know what this tape’s gonna prove but if I’m a killer consider this my confession.”

Michael Brower is a shut-in who spends his time with horror films, video games and spying on his neighbour Kimberly. One day his friend Kyle introduces him to Brainscan, a horror video game that puts the player in a role of a murderer. The game is fun, but he finds out that the game is more real than it seems, as the murders he commits in it also happen in real life. Understandably, he becomes reluctant to continue, but the game’s avatar The Trickster goads him on to continue….

Ah, the year that was 1994. I remember it well, unfortunately. VHS tapes were still the dominant form of watching movies, the whole “Grunge” thing was in its death throes, and Edward Furlong’s career hadn’t yet completely imploded. Though, I would suspect said implosion was beginning to pick up steam. Which is possibly why Brainscan wasn’t as terrible as I first suspected.

I remember seeing the television spot for Brainscan a couple of times when it was released in theaters back in 1994. Looked interesting, but even then I figured I would wait for the home video release to rent if I were to get around to watching it. Then, much like the lead actor’s career, my interest in watching it fell into the dust bin of obscurity, and it wasn’t until twenty years later when I came across Brainscan on DVD at the local video rental shop and decided to finally watch the thing.

Considering the kind of horror and sci-fi genre flicks that came out in the first half of the 1990s, Brainscan wasn’t as painful as I was expecting. It’s still a B-grade level sci-fi flick, nonetheless, but at least it was an entertaining B-grade level sci-fi flick.

The premise is your standard “ghost in the machine” cyberpunk-lite story, where an interactive game causes the player–Michael Brower, played by Furlong–to commit murders in a zombified sleepwalking state in the real world, while he thinks he’s just playing an interactive computer game, mainly due to a supernatural malevolent game avatar with bad skin and even worse hair (and a taste for the musical stylings of Primus) who calles himself The Trickster. Of course, once Micheal understands that he’s committing the murders, he tries to stop things from getting worse, which backfires spectacularly, resulting in his friends dying and a cop played by Frank Langella (who probably did this movie for a house payment or something) on his tail.

All things considered, I found myself enjoying Brainscan for the most part. Mostly due to The Trickster, the most ridiculously hip evil guy I’ve seen in a long while. He is, by far, the best thing going for this movie; it’s a pity he doesn’t really factor in all that much. Instead, we get a whole lot of Eddie Furlong doing what he’s done since Terminator 2: being a whiny Gen X teenager that you can’t help but want to smack around. I do admit that Furlong’s performance is downright charismatic compared to most of his costars–especially the love interest, who seemed to take her delivery style from Steven Wright–and the soundtrack of rock music from that period was rather good. Of course, I would be remiss to not point out that Brainscan is another one of those thinly veiled social commentaries on the influence of horror movies and violent video games on the impressionable youth, a fact of which supplies us with one of the more unintentionally hilarious screens early on with the high school principal denouncing the Horror Club Michael heads up.

Overall, I would say Brainscan is one of those obscure sci-fi B-movies from the 1990s that’s good for an enjoyable rental some night. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go Igor-ize my laptop…